An old Chinese adage says; “if you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a life time, “help somebody.” Like the old English saying; “a friend in need is a friend indeed,” if put in context of China-Uganda relations, this narrative is a perfect match and best describes the relationship between two sides. It pictures a cooperation that supports mutual benefit and brotherhood on both sides.
For the last plus sixty years, the relationship between China and Uganda and generally, China-Africa relations has been growing from strength to strength. From social to economic and political context, China’s contribution in Uganda and generally Africa is spread like an open book and almost all citizens have either benefited individually or their relatives have gained from Chinese contribution which is often done through cooperate social responsibilities. Also, important to note is that such contribution is also extended to African countries through bilateral relations between the two countries. One of such is China’s medical diplomacy.
In Uganda for example, the Naguru-China Uganda friendship hospital is a face of China-Uganda medical cooperation. The hospital which was constructed by China and gifted to Uganda has been at the center of deepening medical diplomacy between the two countries and arguably, thousands of Ugandans have benefited from Chinese services at the Hospital. Indeed, since 1983, China has been religiously supporting Uganda’s medical sector-annually, sending a team of medical experts in the country to work and share their experiences with their Ugandan counterparts while extending services to a number of Ugandans.
Among other services offered by Chinese medical team include minor and major surgeries. For example, on the January 31st, led by Dr. Zhang Hui, a Chinese surgeon at Naguru-China Uganda friendship hospital with colleagues conducted a successful surgery that lasted over 3 hours to remove an enlarged thyroid gland from a 38-year-old woman who was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism 15 years ago. Of course, there are other hundreds of Ugandans that have benefited from Chinese medical teams in Uganda since they started their medical exportation to Uganda in 1983.
Currently, the team of Chinese medical experts at China-Uganda friendship hospital Naguru is comprised of 22 members offering services among others, gastroenterology, thyroid and breast surgery, otolaryngology, urology, infectious diseases, and traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, offering survives daily to over 130 outpatients weekly.
One can argue that almost in the entire global south, almost all countries have benefited from China’s medical diplomacy. From Americas to Middle East and the wider Asia and then to African, people continue to get specialised medical services as a result of Beijing’s good cooperation in medical sector.
As developed countries practiced vaccine nationalism which resulted into hoarding of much needed vaccines at the height of Covid-19 pandemic, China stood taller and shoulder to shoulder working with developing countries especially in Africa to ensure many people got vaccinated against covid-19 by donating billions of Covid-19 vaccine doses to African countries. This was in addition to sharing its technology and jointly producing Covid-19 vaccines with African countries such as Egypt, Algeria and Morocco.
Indeed, at the early stage of the outbreak of the pandemic, Chinese president Xi Jinping warned against vaccine nationalism and proposed that COVID-19 vaccines should be made a global public good and benefit, in particular, developing countries with low or no capacity to produce own vaccines. Consequently, China provided over over 2 billion doses of vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organisations, of which over a billion were provided to Africa.
This is on top of China funding the construction of the new headquarters of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) which Beijing argued will help the continent in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and also help the continent better coordinate its approach to future pandemics. If critically analysed, a conclusion can be made that Beijing’s relations with African capitals is in all ways anchored on concrete and not just high-sounding empty words and hence, a confirmation of President Xi’s vision of building a community of shared future for mankind.
Allawi Ssemanda is a research fellow at the Development Watch Centre.
Development Watch Centre
Kampala - Uganda
Plot 212, RTG Plaza,3rd Floor, Office Number C7 - Hoima Road, Rubaga
+256 703 380252